The next day, Hermione dragged herself from her bed grudgingly. Like every morning, she wrote in her journal about the darkness that took her in the dreams, and the unknown hands that gripped and pulled her. With a bit of delight she mentioned she had been able to perform real magic in last night's dream. Again she left out the part about Ron, or at least the majority of it. Blushing, Hermione just scribbled the part about them drinking coffee in a familiar looking kitchen.
She was aware that she probably should write the full version of her dreams, because what if there was something that would lead them to a clue? Ludwig had also told them that they might dream real memories. Biting her lip, Hermione wondered briefly whether her dreams with Ron had been real or just fantasies. It was impossible to tell at this point after she had so hungrily lunged at him the previous day.
So maybe they had been together. Was that why she was so unearthly attracted to the man? Not really, she thought honestly. Forgotten relationship or no forgotten relationship, here and now she couldn’t get over the fact of how nice he was, and funny, and gorgeous when he sat in a kitchen wearing only a towel, his hair dripping wet.
I will not think about that, Hermione told herself sternly, finishing her censored dream with an emphatic period, her quill piercing the paper.
She thought briefly about asking Ginny or Harry about that part of her dreams, but the very thought mortified her. Hermione Granger didn't talk about her sexy dreams to anyone. She smacked her forehead with her palm and left the room, throwing the journal sideways onto the bed.
She was just in the doorway of her room when the green flames erupted in the living room fireplace, and she jumped, startled. Ron stepped out, dusting himself off. Going red in the face, Hermione stood rigidly straight in front of him, her hands behind her back.
Ron was munching on a slice of toast, another one in his hand.
“Hullo ‘Mione,” he mumbled at her with his mouth half-full. Hermione made a face at that, clearing her throat.
“Morning,” she said, trying to sound casual. Ron looked at her strangely, trying to discern the meaning behind her frown.
“Oh, here you go.” He took a step closer and handed her the other piece of toast with an odd grin, feeling pleased with himself for understanding her emotions so well.
Shrugging in defeat, Ron gulped down the last piece of his toast and took a bite of the other. Hermione felt irritated by his laid-back attitude. After all, she did expect him to look and feel as confused and taken aback as she was.
Peeking in the direction of the kitchen, Hermione waited for Harry or Ginny to emerge, but it seemed they were still closed up in their bedroom.
“What are you doing here?” she asked as she began to pace the living room, tapping her fingers nervously atop various horizontal surfaces of furniture.
“I was supposed to come back this morning,” he replied, finally finished with his breakfast. “Harry wants to talk to us about our lost, forgotten past again. Plus, he said he had a surprise,” Ron said with a smile, which Hermione didn’t return. “Yay,” he added quietly, eyeing Hermione questioningly. She took to pacing in a straight line between the table with the telephone and a big shelf with books on the other side of the room, back and forth. “Anyway, what did you dream about?”
Hermione stopped in her tracks, her eyes darting to him sharply. “What? Why? Nothing!” she cried.
“O-okay, I was just asking.”
“It was nothing inappropriate, that I can tell you!” she exclaimed, pointing her finger at him as if he had asked her something very outrageous.
Ron shrugged and flopped down into an armchair close to the fireplace. He was still watching Hermione as she finally settled by the bookshelf, closely inspecting a glass book weight as if it were the most interesting thing on earth.
“Well, I dreamed of you.”
Hermione spun around violently, accidentally bumping into the glass bauble with her hand, sending it flying to the ground where it shattered into pieces. Ron got up from the armchair and crouched down opposite Hermione, who started gathering the pieces into her hands, muttering to herself under her breath angrily.
“Let me help you. Are you alright?” he asked, his ears turning red when their hands brushed against each other.
Ron’s composure was growing weaker by the second. He had spent all morning preparing himself for meeting Hermione, staring at himself stupidly in the mirror for nearly an hour to rehearse a casual expression. He felt like he wasn’t ready just yet to deal with what had happened in the garden. Hermione’s odd behavior made it more difficult, though.
“What did you dream about?” she blurted out suddenly.
“We were at the Burrow, you and me, and it must’ve been years ago, because we were much younger. It was during the summer. It was hazy at first, but then you smacked me across the head with a broomstick because I kicked a garden gnome.”
“Well you deserved it. You don’t kick live things!”
Hermione eyed him irritably, ignoring the broken pieces suddenly and crossing her arms across her chest as if this had really upset her.
“You do if they bite you,” Ron muttered, but Hermione heard him and she let out an indignant ‘pfft’ under her breath. “Anyway,” he went on, “Mum confirmed it. It really happened. You know what this means, right?”
Broken glass and awkwardness forgotten, Ron looked at Hermione and smiled genuinely. “It was a real memory. That’s great, huh? Maybe you dreamed something real too.”
At this point, they were both just crouching on the floor in between the broken glass and Hermione stared as if she were looking at him for the first time in her life. Suddenly Ginny emerged from her bedroom, pulling a sweater over her head hastily.
“Ginny!” Hermione yelled, standing up abruptly.
“What happened? We heard something break. Oh,” she said, spotting the mess. Pulling out a wand from her jean pocket, she flicked it and immediately the glass pieces scuttled across the floor to rearrange themselves back into the shape of the paper weight. Then it flew back onto the shelf as if the scene had been rewound.
Harry stumbled out of the bedroom too, bumping into Ginny with his glasses askew, slightly out of breath.
Hermione almost moaned, thinking the situation couldn’t get any more awkward.
“Hermione, you’re bleeding!” cried Ron, taking her hand into his. Looking down, Hermione noticed with surprise that there was a small gash running through her palm. Ron helped her stand up and led her to the sink in the kitchen, his grip on her hand firm yet gentle.
They were followed by Harry and Ginny, who were constantly brushing past one another, smiling as if in a world of their own. Hermione let herself be steered by Ron, feeling annoyed and awed at the same time. For a moment, she didn’t even care that Ron had dreamt a real memory, because it wasn’t fair that she had dreamed of him in such a way as she had, and he dreamed of broomsticks and ugly little dwarf men.
After they all settled down and Ginny made some coffee, they sat in the living room. Ginny left them shortly, off to do more research on the dust issue, that being the only thing she told them before she Apparated away.
Harry questioned them about their dreams, as usual. He congratulated Ron and seemed very happy himself. When asked, Hermione just mumbled things, facing only her coffee and drinking it in two gulps. Harry sent a quick letter to Ludwig, telling him of Ron’s dream and asking for the date of the next session.
Half an hour later, after even Hermione had calmed down considerably, Harry heaved a sigh.
“I think it’s time to tell some more things from the past,” he said, scratching the top of his head, not really knowing where to start. After a minute or so, he began.
Hermione and Ron both listened very closely. Harry spoke quietly and automatically, his voice almost devoid of emotion, but they could see it took a lot of restraint on his part. He told them everything, of how his parents had died and how he had spent lonely, miserable years with his aunt and uncle. Then he spoke of Hogwarts while passing them one picture after another. They were drinking it all in earnestly.
At first it felt like listening to a new story, but as Harry progressed, in various places, they could both feel as if they were actually in the story. Hermione and Ron imagined everything rather easily.
He told them of their years in Hogwarts, mostly focusing on the development of the war. Hermione was stricken upon hearing all the sinister things that had been happening, a little frightened with the fact that this magical world was not just spells and sparkles but also full of death and darkness.
Hermione observed Harry, the man with the messy hair and startling green eyes. It pained her to imagine all he had gone through and she admired him for still looking as strong as he did. Then there were all the things he said she had done. Hermione found it hard to imagine herself in all those adventures, but a part of her was elated by the thought she had been so daring once.
One thing kept nagging at her brain and that was the never-ending question – how could they forget all this? How could any spell or incantation possibly rid them of all these memories and incredible things they had experience? Hermione felt angry that such a part of her life, all of her life actually, had been so cruelly ripped from her.
“I know all this is a little hard to imagine,” Harry said after a while, “but I already owled a friend and it’s going to be easier for you once I show it to you in the Pensieve. A Pensieve,” Harry said quickly because Hermione opened her mouth to ask, “is a magical basin, where you can put your memories and other people can look at them.”
“That’s amazing,” Hermione breathed, again awed at all the clever and wonderful things this world had.
Ron had other things on his mind. “Whoa, we seriously rode on a dragon? So there are dragons? I can’t wait to see that one. Oh! Are there unicorns as well? It’d be wicked to see a unicorn!”
“That, and many other creatures,” laughed Harry while standing up. “Now, grab onto me, both of you. We’re going to a very special place.”
Walking through the grounds of Hogwarts was like walking through a fantasy. They walked in silence, Harry leading them through all the places where his stories had taken place. They passed briefly through the Forbidden Forest and Hermione inhaled the fresh air with vigor. She could feel the magic all around her, evaporating from the soil into the air and up to the tall, ageless trees. Ron didn’t seem to like the place as much, as he kept glancing over his shoulder every minute, scratching his neck and head and arms and checking for spiders everywhere he looked.
Through the grounds they walked, their footsteps rustling in the grass as they reached the glorious castle. No words could explain it, they both thought, as they stared up in awe. Harry told them the greatest battle of the war had taken place in this very spot and they could see the truth of that, for the stone was scarred and scorched, one tower left unrepaired, crumbling and overgrowing with ivy.
That was where Albus Dumbledore had died, Harry told them solemnly.
They were told that after the reconstruction, the castle had been fully repaired but wasn’t made to look as good as new. People felt there needed to be small reminders, so the next generation, and the ones to come after that, would never forget that even the safest place in the world took great blows in the battle. It was also to remind them that despite all of it, it had still never fallen. Harry told Hermione she had been one of the topmost people who had participated in this grand reconstruction as she had been the only one from the trio to return to Hogwarts for their unfinished seventh year.
Hermione felt humbled, and bowed her head as if in tribute to the magnificent building. The castle breathed with memories and magic, and as they stepped inside through the large oak doors, both Ron and Hermione felt as though they had stumbled headfirst into a dream.
It was the weekend and most of the students were in Hogsmeade. Except the occasional first or second year passing through the corridors, Harry, Ron and Hermione had the castle to themselves. Ron craned his neck to look up all around the cavernous hall, taking in the amount of portraits, once again noticing with delight people in them were moving and jostling about. One sigh after another escaped his lips and he felt joy at the thought that this place had been his home once. Oh how much he wished to remember. But the more Harry spoke, his story-telling growing livelier, Ron could almost imagine it in his own mind, all the moments and fleeting days, as if they were his own memories. He wasn’t sure what to make of it and quickly forgot to analyze it as they stepped into the Great Hall.
Back at the Burrow, his brothers, mainly Bill, had spent hours describing and talking of Hogwarts, but it was nothing like the real thing. Four long tables lined the room and when Ron felt Hermione gasp beside him, he looked up and saw the clear blue sky, as unbelievable as it was.
“Those flags represent the four Houses,” Harry said suddenly, “Can you guess which was ours?”
“I don’t even have to,” smiled Ron and nudged Harry with his shoulder, looking at the Gryffindor flag with a quick rush of pride. “Let me guess, we didn’t get along with the snake people.”
Harry chuckled. “How do you know?”
“I just do. Besides, I had a dream where I crashed a car or a bike or…a broom and people wearing those colors were there, asking for a well-earned punch in the gut.”
“Dammit, Ron, why didn’t you record it, you lazy prat?” and Harry punched him in the shoulder with a grin.
“I don’t know, the dreams don’t seem to be doing it for me.”
“I understand, we were never good at this clairvoyance dream and divination stuff. One time when we had homework to analyze our dreams we-…wait, where’s Hermione?” Harry glanced up and down the spacious Great Hall, but his friend was nowhere to be seen.
“Where did she go? Did she magically disappear or something?”
“No, I guess she just wandered, she’ll be all right, don’t worry. The castle knows her, nothing bad can happen to her. Let’s just hope she doesn’t meet any ghosts, I forgot to mention those.”
Scratching the back of his head, Ron looked to the ground with a sigh. He looked like he wanted to ask something but couldn’t find the words.
“Ron?” Harry asked slowly.
“Well, you know…all those stories you keep telling us…about war.” He cleared his throat, the troubled ghost of a look never leaving his eyes. “I just, I can’t really imagine myself doing all those dangerous things. You see, I never really felt like the brave type that would stick with someone through all that. I’ve always felt so mediocre and ordinary.”
“That was because you lived in a world that made you that way. You didn’t belong there.”
“I guess, but still…Harry, I’m not a hero.”
Harry reached out his hand to clap Ron on the shoulder. A wave of affection washed over him as he looked at his friend, as they were once again reliving the moments of Ron’s never-ending uncertainty.
“Ron, you were, and are, one of the bravest and most loyal people I know. And just so you know, you stuck with me through to the end. So did Hermione. And it’s just so absolutely perfect to have you back…” Harry’s voice trailed off as he took a deep sigh. Being open about his emotions had never really been his thing, and neither had been Ron’s judging by the sheepish awkward grin on his face. “You’re my best friend,” he said simply. “And you are a hero.”
To Harry, the entire hero thing had never been much important. After all, living with the constant attention for being the Boy Who Lived still exhausted him. He knew Ron needed to hear it, though. And anyway he looked at it, to Harry, Ron really was a hero.
“All right,” Harry said with a smirk, “before we go looking for Hermione, I want to take you somewhere. What do you say to a quick game of Quidditch?”
Ron’s eyes lit up at that prospect. “Yeah, let’s do that before we start crying and grow a pair of breasts.”
He felt a bit uneasy about leaving Hermione to wander alone around such a vast and huge place, but he felt this was a safe haven. Maybe at least a few moments spent away from her would do him good.
Sure, the visit to the castle and Harry’s talking had taken his mind off the entire thing, but the whole morning had been hard to take. Especially when she had been acting so weird and looking so damn beautiful, with her hair a little tousled from sleep and her eyes squinting in the morning sun, he thought to himself with a dreamy sigh.
Ron snapped out of his momentary daze and noticed Harry was already by the door out of the Great Hall, whereas he was still standing under the banners, his mouth dangling open.
Hermione passed through the corridors in silence, full of wonder and unafraid. She loved the sounds - the paintings and moving suits of armor, the constant whisper she seemed to hear coming from every corner. Her body tingled, and she kept walking without knowing where she was really going, but she didn’t mind. Her legs worked automatically, as if tracing a path they knew well.
Tracing her fingertips along the stony wall, Hermione closed her eyes and relaxed, still walking forward at a slow pace. She heard voices, unable to say whether they came from the grounds or as echoes from distant corridors, or whether they were voices in her head. Once again, she tried to recall things and she felt that she almost could…almost. Still there was this veil in her imagination, thick and dusty, covering it all. This time, though, she could sense other things. At the touch of the cool wall, Hermione felt it soothe her, her skin so familiar with the roughness and solidity of the stone. She could hear rustling, of paper or grass, she couldn’t tell, but it was a sound delicate to her ears nonetheless. And then she could smell it, the comforting fragrance of parchment and ink, and that of books, many of them.
With her fingertips, Hermione felt she had come to the end of the corridor and opened her eyes. Her jaw dropped. She stood before a library unlike any other she had ever seen before. Feeling as though she were enchanted, she stepped in cautiously and inhaled the air so familiar to her. This was her place, she knew. She must have spent hours and days sitting here, for everywhere she looked, upon rows and rows of shelves bending and sighing under the weight of all the gorgeous books, she felt like she had seen it before. It was as if she had once seen a picture of this library, long ago, and she recalled it just now. But that was impossible, because Hermione doubted any picture on earth could ever describe the beauty of this place.
Walking to one of the shelves, her feet treading over the scarlet carpet quietly, Hermione picked a random book. The binding looked old but firm and Hermione flipped it open, smiling delightedly. It was as if plucked from a fairytale, only it was real. She took one book after another until her arms were full.
Finding a table close by, she set the pile atop it and sat down. The sun was streaming in through the long windows, and in its glow she could see specks of dust floating. Everything seemed to be made of dust lately, she thought. But this was a dust she knew well, much different from the menacing one that appeared in her dreams.
Hermione scanned the pages swiftly, being a very quick reader. Hours seemed to pass by and she was drinking in all the information, whether it had to do with potions or histories, like one drinks from a glass of water after running a marathon.
Another book from the pile looked to be a photo album, or a yearbook of sorts, Hermione wasn’t sure. The Hogwarts crest was on the cover, along with a Latin engraving right under it. The black leathery binding was lovely and in comparison to most other books, this one looked fairly new.
Hermione opened it and turned the pages one by one and very slowly. It seemed it was from the times when she'd been a student in this school. She smiled at the picture that showed the Great Hall adorned in red and gold, portraying the Gryffindor House winning the House Cup. She glanced through countless Quidditch images where she recognized Harry, Ginny, the Weasley twins, and also Ron.
There were pictures of what appeared to be a grand competition and with a pang, Hermione noticed poor Harry was, once again, in the middle of it. She gasped when she came upon a photo showing a dragon, a real dragon. That couldn’t be safe!
She wondered whether it was the one they had ridden on, but it couldn’t be, for this looked like the tournament Harry had told them about, and the unbelievable dragon riding came much later.
There was a small note at the end of this series of photos that told of how the tournament had ended, and she had to stop reading for a second in order to compose herself. Many more pictures followed, portraying students she didn’t know, but also some people she had already met during her brief stay in this world. There was the young woman whom they had met in Diagon Alley, who had thrown herself around Ron’s neck so fervently.
Hermione flipped that page with distaste and rather violently.
Lastly, she came upon photos that had to have been taken after the infamous Battle of Hogwarts Harry had mentioned to her. She shivered and touched the photographs delicately. She didn’t have to remember specific memories now; she could simply feel all the terror and fear, but also some kind of wild determination and hope.
The grounds were unrecognizable, crumbled brick and stone and parts of armor all over the place, and the bodies… Once again, Hermione had to take in a deep breath and look away for a moment. The last pages consisted of portraits of all the students and other people that had been killed during this battle. Even though she didn’t know most of them, she could feel a strong heartache tugging at her heart.
Just as Hermione thought the book was over, on the last page there was one more photo. It was of her, Harry and Ron. They were smiling only feebly, and they looked deadly exhausted, but with a sense of pride she noticed the flame that shone from their eyes. She also noticed that she was leaning slightly into Ron’s shoulder and when the photograph moved, just as magical photographs usually did she learned, Ron kissed her and she squeezed his hand while Harry looked down at them with an amused but satisfied smile.
Somehow, Hermione was past being shocked or overly startled. Holding her breath, she read a small note in gold lettering under the photograph. It mentioned a special thanks to all three of them for their efforts in the war. The last sentences informed about small details of their lives after the war: Harry’s many honors and awards, both his and Ron’s influence in restoring the balance in the wizarding world and help in capturing the rest of the fleeing Dark wizards. Hermione was thanked for all her actions that had helped rebuild Hogwarts. Finally, the note mentioned Harry working as a respected Auror along with Ron Weasley who was at that moment engaged to Hermione Granger, head of the rights movement for magical creatures employed in the wizarding world.
They were engaged.
In a way, it made sense. Hermione wondered how she hadn’t figured it out sooner. Perhaps she had refused to see it. Seconds were passing by and she still didn’t know what to make of it except to stare at the sentence fixedly. Her eyes then moved to the photograph, witnessing the kiss, again and then once more.
She felt Ron’s lips on hers again, the sensation she felt yesterday drowning her. Hermione wanted to look away, she wanted to shut the book so she could finally think, something she hadn’t been able to do at all since their kiss in the garden. Her efforts were to no avail, because that photograph had her eyes locked on it and seeing Ron kiss her, over and over, was almost addicting and so sweet.
Hermione remembered her dream more vividly this time. There was a ring, a ring from Ron, there on her finger in the place where Jonathan’s ring was at the moment. As usual, the thought of Jonathan brought her back to reality and Hermione leaned her elbow on the table and supported her chin, sighing emptily.
She would need to talk to someone about this. She would need to talk to Ron, more specifically, but how...she hadn’t had the slightest idea.
Slowly it dawned on her. She was engaged, but she had kissed another man than her fiance, who used to be her fiance but wasn’t anymore, even though they never truly broke up the relationship. It was too much to take in. Hermione felt the familiar ache in her head.
“There you are!”
Hermione jumped in her seat, spotting Harry and Ron in the library entrance, striding toward her. Without thinking, Hermione grabbed the book from the table abruptly and shoved it to the bottom of the pile next to her. Tapping her fingers on the table nervously, she could tell they had been outside by their windswept hair and the scent of fresh air they had brought in with them.
“Told you she would be in a library,” Ron remarked with a slight grin. “You should’ve seen the stadium. And you've got to fly a broom, Hermione! It was amazing, amazing, I tell you!”
“What have you been reading?” Harry asked, sitting on the table in front of her, while Ron remained further from her, avoiding her eyes. Hermione found it hard to tear her eyes away from him. Up until now she had been able to push the thoughts and feelings from their kiss away, but after this new information...that was impossible. He didn’t know and Hermione didn’t know whether she felt relief or sadness upon that realization.
“Nothing,” she lied sheepishly, gathering the books into her arms and walking over to the shelves, about to put them back. While Ron was looking around, Hermione quickly grabbed the book she had been reading and slipped it into her purse. She felt bad about stealing a book from a library since she would have never before willingly done that, she just wasn’t ready to give it up yet, not to mention that she wasn’t ready for Ron to see it. For whatever reason. Besides, she could always return it later, so it was really only borrowing.
Their tour of the castle continued, but Hermione found it hard to concentrate on anything besides Ron. She hardly registered the gorgeous tapestries adorning the walls, hardly flinched upon seeing a ghost pass them by with a greeting. There was only Ron, walking a few steps before her, talking to Harry animatedly.
Shaking her head, trying to dismiss all those confusing thoughts, it was only then that she noticed that more and more ghosts seemed to be floating around them, whispering to each other. Even the people in the moving portraits appeared to be moving rather unusually, actually running from one portrait to another, as if they were trying to get somewhere.
Walking through a small door, Harry, Ron and Hermione emerged on a small balcony and Hermione gasped.
They were high in the air in what seemed to be a very tall tower. The space above and under them was huge, almost intimidating. There were hundreds of staircases, moving constantly into various directions. Every spot on the wall was covered by a portrait and all the portraits were so full the people seemed to be falling out. This was probably the place they had all been scrambling to.
All the ghosts were flying around them, eyeing them with their dead but solemn eyes. It was quite breathtaking, and Hermione felt herself searching for Ron’s hand without even realizing it.
Suddenly, all in unison, the people in the portraits and the ghosts slowly bowed out of respect, as if they were heroes, legends.
It was Ron who grabbed her hand in the end, while she had her head craned and stared up at the scenery with tears in her eyes. Harry placed his hand on her shoulder then, and Hermione felt somehow complete for the moment.
Harry was leaning against the doorway and watching Hermione seated on his living room floor cross-legged amongst heaps of old photographs. Every now and then she lifted her head to look at him and ask him a random question about a person or an event she could try and associate with the photograph.
Ron had left them as they'd departed Hogwarts, saying he had to go and help George in the workshop. As he'd been leaving, he'd exchanged a glance with Hermione, one that Harry had never been let in on. It was the way they had looked at each other sometimes, their eyes speaking for them, all the words they had been either too stubborn or unable to say. It was sad to think they probably didn’t understand what it all had meant.
Harry couldn’t help but think something must’ve happened between them. He didn’t want to pry, since he had years of experience knowing it was best not to meddle with their crazy relationship.
A loud crack came from the hallway, announcing Ginny’s arrival. Hermione had been so absorbed in what she was doing she didn’t even look up. As Ginny appeared in front of him, Harry wanted to kiss her, but she just grabbed his hand and dragged him into the kitchen.
Furrowing his eyebrows worriedly, he noticed she looked oddly distressed. Before he had a chance to ask, she looked at him with her eyes slightly widened.
“Harry, I’ve been to Knockturn Alley this afternoon and found something. After Ron and Hermione both mentioned a dust and more dust appearing in their dreams, I felt like I’d heard or seen it before. And I was right. I saw it once, in a shop while I was buying some rubbish for Mum to use in the garden. It was called memory powder or something and was used for tampering with the memory somehow. I went there to find out more, but the place was trashed and deserted. The shopkeeper, everything was gone. I…I think someone didn’t want us to find out about this. Whoever did this knows we’ve found them and it seems like they’re not happy about it.”
Author's Note: Here's another chapter, really really soon. This is probably the quickest update I've ever done. Well I really owe it to you. What do you think? Did you like it? Hate it? Let me know!
THANK YOU everyone that returned to this story after so long. It means the world to me. I'm working on the next chapter, so let's hope Ron and Hermione cooperate and it should be up really soon. Thank you again, Megan, for being as helpful as always.